Saint Liborius: the Iconography

In Le Mans, Gaul: St. Liborius, bishop and confessor – Roman Martyrology for July 23

St. Liborius was the a bishop of Le Mans in the 4th century. In this role he saw to the construction of 17 churches, which he financed partly from his own funds. He was a companion of St. Martin of Tours, who presided at his funeral. The earliest vitae tell of miraculous cures effected through his intercession but do not mention the one ill with which he came to be most associated in the high Middle Ages: "calculus" – that is, the formation of stones that lodge in the ducts of the kidneys, gall bladder, etc. These can be extremely painful until passed out of the body through the urinary canal. The Acta Sanctorum has accounts of a number of specific cures of this affliction credited to Liborius, as well as poems and epigrams celebrating the effectiveness of his intercession against it.1 Thus his attribute is a book with several "calculi" or passed stones on it, as in the picture at right. As an alternative, the fresco on the right puts the calculi on a plate held by a woman or angel.

Prepared in 2018 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.

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This frontispiece was reprinted in the Acta Sanctorum (July vol. 5 [1727], 401) to illustrate the observation that St. Liborius is often depicted with a book on which rest a number of "calculi" or passed stones. The text below the saint is a prayer entitled Oratio contra calculum, "A Prayer Against Calculus."


J. B. Zimmermann, St. Liborius Intercedes for a Woman with Calculus (See the description page.)

DATES

  • Feast day: July 23

NOTES

1 Butler, III, 169-70. Acta Sanctorum, July vol. 5, 394-457, with a section at pp. 435-40 on cures of calculus effected through the saint's intercession.